Cabaret and Variety review: Cabaret Whore Presents… La Poule Plombée

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La Poule Plombée is rich in Gallic malaise and engaging songs.

Star rating: ****

Venue: Voodoo Rooms (Venue 68)

In her series of Cabaret Whore shows, co-written with Michael Roulston, Sarah-Louise Young presented a delicious array of absurd, monstrous or deluded musical comedy characters. But none has had the longevity of La Poule Plombée, a chic and maudlin French chanteuse who wears a little black dress accessorised with a butcher’s knife and sings beautifully and preposterously of her tragic, alienated and ever so slightly self-pitying life. Now, La Poule gets her own standalone show and it’s every bit as joyous as she is glum.

The character is so well honed now that Young can project her pride and vulnerability simply walking through the room to the stage. But she gets an extra dimension by having Roulston, done up in velvet jacket and bow tie, portray her veteran accompanist and adoring fan Mumu. Together they deliver an almost entirely new set that retains La Poule’s Gallic malaise and froideur while opening up her history and personality in empathetic and engaging ways.

There’s the self-glorifying anthem My Voice, which Young has the vocal chops to back up; the duet That Wonderful Night, which juxtaposes La Poule’s romantic delusions with Momo’s down-to-earth reality; Thin Skin, in which her fragility comes to the fore; and Perfect Papa, in which we learn about La Poule’s beloved but unflinching butcher father (echoes of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd).

For an elegant, inventive and hugely enjoyable hour, we witness the star struggle to offer up her art without expecting anything in return, and observe the foibles of her codependent relationship with Mumu. To see a less fraught variation on the latter theme, check out Roulston & Young: Songs for Lovers (and Other Idiots), in which La Poule’s creators step away from the little black dress and the knife for their own show.

Until 28 August. Today 6:30pm.

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